almanac

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almanac,

originally, a calendar with notations of astronomical and other data. Almanacs have been known in simple form almost since the invention of writing, for they served to record religious feasts, seasonal changes, and the like. The Roman fasti, originally a list of dies fasti (days when legal business might be transacted) and dies nefasti (days when legal business should not be transacted), were later elaborated into various lists, some of them resembling modern almanacs.

The almanac did not become a really prominent type of reading matter until the introduction of printing in Western Europe in the 15th cent. RegiomontanusRegiomontanus
[Lat.,=belonging to the royal mountain, i.e., to Königsberg], 1436–76, German astronomer and mathematician, b. Königsberg. His original name was Johannes Müller.
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 produced one of the famous early almanacs (his Ephemerides), incorporating his astronomical knowledge. Most early almanacs were devoted primarily to astrology and predictions of the future. Prediction of the weather has persisted in many modern almanacs, but the crude and sensational magic began to disappear early, to be replaced by more or less scientific information. Late in the 18th cent. truly scientific almanacs appeared—notably the British Nautical Almanac (founded 1767; see ephemerisephemeris
(pl., ephemerides), table listing the position of one or more celestial bodies for each day of the year. The French publication Connaissance de Temps is the oldest of the national astronomical ephemerides, founded in 1679.
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), which was the inspiration for the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac (founded 1855).

The popular almanac, however, developed in the 17th and 18th cent. into a full-blown form of folk literature, with notations of anniversaries and interesting facts, home medical advice, statistics of all sorts, jokes, and even fiction and poetry. The first production (except for a broadside) of printing in British North America was an almanac for the year 1639. One of the best colonial almanacs was the Astronomical Diary and Almanack begun by Nathaniel AmesAmes, Nathaniel,
1708–64, American almanac maker, b. Bridgewater, Mass. His Astronomical Diary and Almanack, begun in 1725 and issued annually after c.1732 from Dedham, Mass.
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 in 1725, and this was the forerunner of the most famous of them all, Benjamin FranklinFranklin, Benjamin,
1706–90, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer, b. Boston. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.
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's Poor Richard's Almanack (pub. by him 1732–57), which in its title recalled one of the most popular and long-lasting of English almanacs, that of "Poor Robin" (founded c.1662). The most enduring of all American almanacs was first published in 1792 by Robert Bailey ThomasThomas, Robert Bailey,
1766–1846, American journalist, b. Grafton, Mass. He was the founder and long-time editor (1792–1846) of The Farmer's Almanac[k] (later The Old Farmer's Almanac[k]).
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; it came later to be called The Old Farmer's Almanac[k].

The best types of present-day almanacs are handy and dependable compendiums of large amounts of statistical information. Noteworthy American almanacs include The World Almanac and Book of Facts (first pub. as a booklet in 1868, discontinued 1876, revived 1886), and the Information Please Almanac (first pub. 1947, now the Time Almanac). There are also useful almanacs devoted to particular topics, such as sports, health care, Native Americans, and specific countries, or designed for specific audiences, such as children.

Enlarge picture
The four sides of the clog almanac are shown extended to reveal the marks for each day. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

Almanac

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

An almanac is a book or booklet containing sets of tables, particularly calendrical tables, announcing astronomical or astrological events (such as Moon phases, eclipses, and beginnings of seasons) and carrying historical facts, information on planting by the signs, and other types of data. Older almanacs (the almanac tradition has been traced as far back as the Hellenistic period) contained prophetic announcements, a tradition carried on by modern almanacs, which usually predict the day-by-day weather on the basis of meteorological astrology. In U.S. history, the most well-known example was Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732–1757), which was issued by Benjamin Franklin. The Old Farmer’s Almanac remains popular in rural areas.

Sources:

DeVore, Nicholas. Encyclopedia of Astrology. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947.
Gettings, Fred. Dictionary of Astrology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.
Thomas, Robert B. The Old Farmer’s 1991 Almanac. Dublin, NH: Yankee Publishing, 1990.

Almanac

 

(1) A nonperiodic collection containing information from various fields of public activity such as literary news, scientific achievements, legislative changes, and so forth. Such almanacs are similar in type to so-called calendar-reference books.

(2) Literary almanac—a collection of literary works that are often united by some feature—theme, genre, school of thought, and so forth. They first appeared in Western Europe (France) in the middle of the 18th century and in Russia at the end of the 18th century.

almanac

[′ȯl·mə‚nak]
(science and technology)
A book that contains astronomical or meteorological data, arranged according to days, weeks, and months of a given year, and may also contain diverse information of a nonastronomical character.
References in periodicals archive ?
Thomas (1766-1846) was a West Boylston schoolteacher and creator of the first Old Farmer's Almanac -- one of the oldest and most beloved periodicals in North America.
Gargeya's almanac ( panchangam in Telugu) called ' Graha Bhoomi Panchangam' for the Telugu New Year 2012- 13 ( it begins on March 23) has some strange observations about the menstruation period of girls.
As may be seen from the copy of the almanac at the HathiTrust site, there were only six enigmas offered in the 1782 almanac--six, not twelve.
Almanacs have indeed largely disappeared from modern America, though they continue in the Yankee nostalgia of the Old Farmer's Almanac (now in its third century) and those fat compendia of useful and not-so-useful facts like the Information Please Almanac, Atlas and Yearbook.
Thomas designed the first edition of The Old Farmer's Almanac in 1792 for publication in the early spring of 1793 during the first term of George Washington's presidency.
An almanac is a collection of facts and statistics, often given in table format.
There was, therefore, a more lucrative market in cheaper, unstamped almanacs.
Chapter five constitutes the core of the study, which explains at length the functions of the almanacs, categorizing them as multipurpose, directional (focusing on the prophetic qualities of the directions), or topical (relating to a single domain, such as childbirth or Venus).
The early Almanacs were a celebration of America's pluralism, its 535 idiosyncratic legislators and 50 governors, and the magnificent fluidity of a democracy in which the products of narrow political machines could settle a constitutional crisis.
His Almanac doesn't look dissimilar from its younger cousins, being beautifully designed and illustrated with endless graphs, lists, diagrams and line drawings.
This article examines the prophetical and medical almanacs of two female [technical writers] of seventeenth-century England, Sarah Jinner of London and Mary Holden of Sudbury.
Those NDTA'ers who remember that first Almanac back in February of 1979 can't help but be impressed with how it has matured over the last 25 years.